Review Blog

Jul 15 2016

The summer we saved the bees by Robin Stevenson

cover image

Orca Books Publishers, 2015. ISBN 9781459808348
(Age: 11+) Recommended. Bees, Alternate families, Grandparents, Families and relationships. When Wolf does a project about bees dying in Canada, he little realises that his 'hippy' mother will take it to heart, sewing bee costumes for the twins, Saffron and Whisper, and having the whole family get into a van and do a trip across the country spreading their bee message through guerilla theatre. The stage is set for a funny book about relationships and family on a road trip, a journey in which the cracks pulling them apart are finally brought to the surface.
Wolf does not want to dress up as a bee and perform in front of strangers, one of his sisters, Whisper, usually quiet, has not spoken for days, and his older step sister, Violet, has brought her boyfriend along after being told he was not welcome. Wolf's mother will not listen to any of their concerns, and when the van breaks down, Ty and Violet decide that they will catch the bus to Nelson, where Violet's grandma lives. So all five set out on a ten hour journey to someone who does not know they are coming.
When the parents finally follow them to Nelson, some hard talking ensues making sure that mum finally understands what the children feel and a resolution of sorts is arrived at.
Readers will recognise family situations where the parents want something and include the children as a matter of course, leaving them out of the decisions. The parents think they espouse alternate views but are really just as narrow in their focus as those parents they deride, and it takes a major event to make them see how they have alienated their children.
The parallel to bees makes this a fascinating read, as the narrator compares his own family with colony collapse disorder. Everyone must play their part to ensure the family works like a well behaved beehive.
Fran Knight

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